The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warned on Monday that staffing shortages would likely delay tax refunds and other services this year as the agency prepares for the 2022 tax filing season.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig told reporters that this year’s window for filing tax returns for the year 2021 would run from Jan. 24 through April 18. There are no immediate plans for an extension, The Washington Post reported.
Rettig cautioned that “enormous challenges” faced by the IRS due to severe levels of understaffing will cause delays in many aspects of IRS operations, including sending out refund checks.
“In many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs. This is frustrating for taxpayers, for IRS employees, and for me,” said Rettig. “IRS employees want to do more, and we will continue in 2022 to do everything possible with the resources available to us.”
IRS representatives answered only about 10% of phone calls to the agency last filing season. Treasury officials noted that in the first half of last year, fewer than 15,000 employees were available to handle more than 240 million calls — one person for every 16,000 calls.
The IRS website says that as of Dec. 23, 2021, it still had 6 million unprocessed individual returns, and as of the start of this month it still had more than 2 million unprocessed amended tax returns, a separate category. The IRS would typically start the filing season with a backlog of fewer than 1 million returns, an official said.
The Biden administration has pushed to beef up the IRS’ tax collection budget, hoping to spend $80 billion more on this area, in part because collecting that additional revenue will help it pay for other priorities.
Even if the IRS budget is increased, it would likely not be in time to allow the agency to hire for this filing season. As a result, the IRS heads into its busiest time of year with a workforce that is now the same size as it was in 1970, according to Treasury officials.
Treasury officials are urging taxpayers to get their tax returns in as early as possible. Taxpayers do not need to wait until previous returns to process to submit their 2021 returns.